By Ahsan Waheed
The sight of a federal cabinet minister sobbing as she tendered her resignation to a visibly astonished Prime Minister was unnerving to say the least. Her sobs turned into smiles when her resignation was rejected and promises made to take care of her concerns. Of course while sobbing and resigning she had been careful to stress her confidence in the visionary leadership of the Prime Minister and ‘ownership of the President’—whatever that means. This inevitably led to the view that the sobs for her job were of the crocodile variety and the lingering impression was that the whole thing had been most demeaning and undignified. A storm in a teacup if ever there was one but it did provide comic relief because the minister is already the favorite of all stand-up comedians and the butt of many jokes.
Backtracking reached new heights when the Prime Minister clarified that his earlier remarks about a ‘state within a state’ etc were not about the military at all but were aimed at the Federal secretary of Defense who had truthfully told the Supreme Court that the ISI and Army were not operating under the Ministry of Defense probably because the Defense Minister had never ever visited military headquarters or the troops on the western border or anywhere else for that matter. Nor was he ever part of the meetings between the Prime Minister and Service Chiefs or the ISI Chief and nor had he ever chaired a Defense Council meeting in the Ministry. The Secretary Defense, a highly regarded retired three star, is still in place and without him there the Ministry would be as dead as the Dodo. The Prime Minister added that he was ‘happy’ with the Army Chief, that he had given extensions in service to the Army Chief and the ISI boss and that the talk about sacking them was so much foolishness. He carefully avoided any clarification on his pathetic comment on the visa to OBL and the equally inane remark about raising the salaries of armed forces personnel. That his clarifications came after a most mature and responsible response to his earlier immature provocations explained everything. Some Prime Ministers need to stick to a prepared text otherwise they end up sticking their neck out-a most unwise act.
The media and all the wise men of Gotham who people it are going purple in the face talking about the ‘civil-military confrontation’ that they think is at its peak. They foresee dire consequences in spite of the fact that the Army has publicly stated that they will not do anything to derail democracy; the Supreme Court has said that they will not countenance any unconstitutional act and the entire political structure has ruled out any return to military intervention. The basis for the ‘confrontation’ idea is the response by the military and the government to the Supreme Court on the infamous ‘memo’ issue—the government says it is a non-issue while the military wants it investigated. You do not get an ambassador to resign and ask a parliamentary committee to investigate a non-issue. In any case instead of bleating about a civil-military confrontation the sensible option is to wait for the Supreme Courts verdict and the report by the parliamentary committee. Political leaders feel muscular and macho when they can publicly criticize the military or ask for resignations or target their own military institution in other ways. Besides parliamentary resolutions the military needs to be given a strategic directive on which to base military strategy and the Ministry that is to oversee the military should be made functional and competent. Civilian supremacy will kick in when the government has credibility and capacity to govern.
The ‘Imran phenomenon’ is thriving because it has targeted the people of Pakistan and is being seen as the vanguard of the change that they want. The people in Pakistan are the real Pakistan. Their aspirations, concerns and grievances are the only things that matter. Imran is talking to them and telling them that he will deliver what they want. They believe him. Unfortunately when faced by such reality his opponents can only come up with vague allegations of ‘establishment support’—they have no excuse for neglecting the people and not thinking beyond family and pelf. Imran is leading the charge and the buzz words are dynamism, change and a new order that will save Pakistan from itself. As he gains momentum and the people behind him swell to tidal proportions Imran will be able to confidently articulate the challenge of forging a new relationship with the US, of developing good bilateral relations with our neighbors India and Afghanistan and ensuring human security by combating radicalism and intolerance. Once he has the support of the people on these issues not only is he home free but he would have put Pakistan on the road to stability and economic prosperity. The talk in the US about a ‘curtailed relationship’ with Pakistan is premature and not fully thought out-it does not factor in what the real Pakistan wants.